Once you’ve decided to use laser cutting for your project, a whole new array of options appears. What kind of laser cutting method will serve you best? This is an important decision to make before you begin your project: should you use fiber laser cutting or CO2 laser cutting? Neither laser is a bad decision, but one might be a better fit for the material you need to have cut. Each of these lasers have advantages and disadvantages, and both should be considered carefully before making your final choice. Read on to learn more.
The Advantages of CO2 Laser Cutting
Since the cutting beam of the laser is generally focused to pinpoint precision, you can expect much less loose debris to be kicked up during the cutting process, which can prevent some headaches and cleanup down the road. CO2 lasers are also well-known for creating better edge quality on thick plate metals like aluminum and stainless steel, whereas other lasers will have to work harder to accomplish the same results.
Using a CO2 laser is generally an inexpensive and accurate way to get the metal cuts you need. Most CO2 lasers run off electric power, and the beam itself is redirected and focus with a series of mirrors to produce and infrared beam of light that is invisible to the human eye. A CO2 laser is a great choice when you are looking for variety in your cuts, or will be cutting different types of materials. It’s a simple process to change the power or width of the beam in order to change your style of cuts. Because of the great range this laser has, CO2 lasers can be used to cut much more than just metal. You can use this laser to cut materials from plastic to paper and beyond.
Today, fiber outperforms CO2 in thicker cutting in all categories of evaluation. Example, 1” plate cuts 4x’s faster with Fiber and CO2 today where 4-5 years ago fiber could cut 1”.
The Advantages of Fiber Laser Cutting
Fiber lasers are generally faster and less expensive than CO2 lasers when used on flat sheet metal. The monetary savings come from the fiber laser’s lower levels of energy usage. It takes much less power to operate the resonator and chiller unit of a fiber laser than a CO2 laser, and that difference will make itself known in your wallet. In materials that are less than one fourth of an inch thick, a fiber laser can cut approximately five times faster than a CO2 laser. This is due primarily to the fiber laser’s greater power density at the cutting point, as well as the shorter length of the cutting beam itself. Fiber lasers do extremely well cutting thin materials, where CO2 lasers have more of an advantage with thick materials.
Where CO2 lasers use mirrors to control the cutting beam, a fiber laser takes a more direct approach by sending its focused beam of light straight through a fiber optic cable. The fiber optic cable, which is made of silica glass, uses a diode laser pump to reflect and amplify electrons into the powerful fiber laser beam that cuts your materials.
Another advantage of the fiber laser technology is that you won’t have to worry nearly as much about back reflections. A fiber laser won’t have the same difficulties as a CO2 laser, which can encounter difficulties as it cuts through very reflective metals like copper, brass, and aluminum. Because these metals can absorb a fiber beam more easily than a CO2 beam, the issue of back reflections damaging your machine will be much less of a consideration.